Ever since Volta first produced a source of steady contin­uous current, men of science have been forming theories on this subject. For some time they could see no real difference between the newly-discovered phenomenon and the former understanding of static charge. Then the famous French scien­tist, Ampere (after whom the unit of current was named) determined the difference between the current and the static charges. In addition to it, Ampere gave the current direc­tion: he supposed it to flow from the positive pole of the source round the circuit and back again to the negative pole. We know him to be right in his first statement but he was certainly wrong in the second, as to the direction of current. The flow of current is now known to be in a direction opposite to what he thought.

Now let us turn our attention to the electric current itself. The current which flows along wires consists of moving electrons. In other words, the flow of moving electrons is one form of the electric current. What can we say about the electron? We consider the electron to be a minute particle having an electric charge. We also know that charge to be negative. As these minute charges travel along a wire, that wire is said to carry an electric current.

In addition to travelling through solids, however, the electric current can flow through liquids, as well and even through gases. In both cases it produces some most important effects to meet industrial requirements. Some liquids, such as melted metals for example, conduct current without any change to themselves. Others, called electrolytes, are found to change greatly when the current passes through them.

The reader is certain to remember that a negatively charged electron moves to the positive end of the wire. It had been supposed to move in the wrong way,from the positive end of the circuit to the negative, long before the electrons were discovered. In fact, when a wire is said to be carrying a current from left to right, the electrons in it are really flow­ing from right to left.

When the electrons flow in one direction only, the current is said to be d. c, that is, direct current. The simplest source of power for direct currents is a battery, for a battery pushes the electrons in the same direction all the time (i. е., from the negatively charged terminal to the positively charged terminal).

The letters a. c. stand for alternating current. The current under consideration is known to flow first in one direction and then in the opposite one. The a. c. used for power and lighting purposes is assumed to go through 50 cycles in one second (Fig. 6).

One of the great advantages of a. c. is the ease with which power at low voltage can be changed into an almost similar

amount of power at high voltage and vice versa. Hence, on the one hand alternating voltage is increased when it is necessary for long-distance transmission and, on the other hand, one can

decrease it to meet industrial requirements as well as to oper­ate various devices at home. In fact, at least 90 per cent of electric power to be generated at present is a. c. We know it to find a wide application for lighting, heating, industrial and other purposes.

The student may be probably asking himself: "Why is d. с ever used?" In spite of the fact that almost all electrical power is usually generated and transmitted in the form of a. c, there are numerous cases when d. с is required. For this reason, it is quite possible to generate a. c. then transform it into d. с

We cannot help mentioning here that Yablochkov, our Russian scientist and inventor, was the first to apply a. c. inpractice.



1. Learn the following active words and use them in the sentences of your own:

Advantage (n) преимущество

alternating current переменный ток

decrease (v) понижать(ся), уменьшать(ся)

determine (v) определять, устанавливать

direct current постоянный ток

direction (n) направление

in­crease (v) повышать(ся), увеличивать(ся)

liquid (n) жидкость

particle (n) частица

pole (n) полюс

solid (n) твердое вещество

statement (n) утверждение

subject (n) предмет, тема

terminal (n) клемма

voltage (n) напряжение


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